Aviation Industry Demands Becoming More Regional in Southern Ontario

$60 Million Ask For Improvements To Lake Simcoe Regional Airport

While the proposed sale of the Collingwood Regional Airport continues to dominate local headlines, there have been two other significant regional airport stories in the news recently.

Firstly, The Lake Simcoe Regional Airport is asking the County of Simcoe to invest $60 million to allow for major upgrades which would allow the airport to lengthen and widen the main runway which in turn would attract more air traffic, larger planes, passenger service and related aircraft servicing and storage opportunities.


The Strategic Plan points to a number of opportunities and threats that were not present even two or three years ago including Toronto-Pearson capacity constraints, Southern Ontario Airport Network, Corporate Aviation Constraints at Toronto-Pearson, Commercial Aviation Trends throughout the Province and Regional Travel Demands not only today but in the future.

The report to County of Simcoe Council states that at current growth, Toronto-Pearson will reach its capacity of 80 million passengers within the next decade.

By 2043, the report predicts air travel demand in Southern Ontario will increase to 110 million passengers and a million tonnes of cargo – compared to the 47 million passengers and 400,000 tonnes of cargo in 2017.

The Pearson Airport capacity issues represent economic development opportunities for near-by communities as some air traffic and airport services could be transferred from Toronto.

CTV News Barrie talked to Scott Running, Lake Simcoe Regional Airport Board President. He confirmed Toronto’s Pearson International is facing capacity issues in various areas of operation and is asking for help from regional airport operators.

“Currently the airport is underutilized. For us to grow and allow that connectivity really we have to add some infrastructure.”

The Lake Simcoe Regional Airport is owned by the City of Barrie, the Township of Oro-Medonte and the County of Simcoe.

County of Simcoe Warden Gerry Marshall told CTV News Barrie that he has seen lots of evidence of the importance the airport is playing to local municipalities and regionally.

“So I’d say there is evidence that is very supportive of us participating.”

Now the partners must discuss how or if they wish to proceed.

Collingwood’s airport was not a part of the County conversation. Could it be?

Mayor Sandra Cooper declined comment on this story.

An Integrity Commissioner report prepared by Principles Integrity has found that Collingwood Mayor Sandra Cooper had a conflict of interest by participating in discussion and voting at the February 12, 2018 meeting of Collingwood Council with regards to Staff Report C2018-01 titled “Consulting Advisory Services in the Sale of the Collingwood Regional Airport.” (CLICK HERE TO READ THE REPORT)

We turned to Collingwood’s Deputy Mayor Brian Saunderson for comments.

Saunderson says an updated Collingwood Regional Airport could be a very good thing in terms of economic development for the Town, but he says the costs to upgrade would be far too much for the Town to afford.

“There is no denying that moving forward, airports are going to be a huge transportation hub and very powerful economic drivers for communities. The issue is that they require large capital infusions to get them to that level and the Town of Collingwood as the owner of the Collingwood Regional Airport is not in a position to leverage that kind of capital into a specific asset given all our other municipal responsibilities.”

Saunderson sits on Simcoe County Council and has reviewed the $60 million request for upgrades to the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport. He said municipalities must responsibly meet the financial demands of the community, adding that taking on something similar to bring the Collingwood Regional Airport up to the level proposed for the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport including the widening and extension of the main paved runway is just not realistic at this time.

“Municipalities get 9 cents of every tax dollar and they’re required to maintain infrastructure and run all of their programs from those monies and an airport while regionally significant and important is not the primary municipal responsibility, so it becomes a question as to how do you find the partnerships or the owners that can invest those types of dollars to raise the airport to the level it needs to be to make it a more significant regional economic driver.”

The last major upgrade to the Collingwood Airport runway was in February 2009, when the Federal and Provincial Governments each contributed $441,000 of infrastructure funding for the Airport’s runway re-paving project. (Click here to view photos)

The Collingwood Regional Airport is situated south of Collingwood on 392 acres of land in Clearview Township. Facilities include a Town-owned maintenance building and a public terminal facility with a restaurant. The main asphalt and lighted runway is 5000′ x 100′.

In April 2013 the Collingwood Regional Airport was awarded approval for customs service by the Canada Border Services Agency.

Secondly, an air passenger service is being proposed to take passengers from Toronto to Cottage Country.

FLY GTA is proposing a service from Toronto Island Airport to Muskoka Airport in Gravenhurst.

FLY GTA already offers passenger flights from Kitchener/Waterloo, Niagara and closer to us, the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport.

The company web site promotes a $129.00 fare between Toronto and Barrie, promoting the fact that you can get out of the city and on the ground at Lake Simcoe Regional Airport in 20 minutes, with no traffic to battle and a breathtaking view to enjoy along the way. (air fare taken from web site and could change)

Similar Program Was Attempted at Collingwood Regional Airport

Collingwood’s Director of Marketing and Business Development, Martin Rydlo, told CollingwoodLiving.com that a local tourism operation tried something similar to what is being proposed by FLY GTA for Muskoka. Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain offered a package to fly in customers from Toronto to the Collingwood Regional Airport.

Scandinave Spa Blue Mountain Director of Sales and Marketing Mylisa Henderson told CollingwoodLiving.com that the promotion was a good one in terms of getting customers to and from Collingwood from Toronto, but ran into financial issues with ground transportation to and from the local airport.

“We did have a good initial relationship with them in the early winter December 2016. We ran the package for about 3 months but the communication dropped off and the package was never re-instated. It is my understanding that the cost of transportation from the Collingwood airport to the Spa/Collingwood was not feasible so the profit margin was very small. It was a great package though and we had high hopes that it would be popular and successful, especially in the summer months.”

The Southern Ontario Airport Network was formed to ensure the region can accommodate all the air service needs and continue to be drivers of local and regional economic opportunities.

The Southern Ontario Airport Networks says because of growth and a lack of facilities, a negative economic impact will develop because people will be forced to leave the region to accommodate travel plans.

“By the late 2030s, regional air travel demand is likely to outpace the current capacity of the region’s airports. If nothing changes, there could be an excess demand of around 20 million passengers per year by the mid-2040s. The economic impact of passengers leaving the region to meet their travel needs elsewhere could reach as high as $15 billion in GDP.”

The Southern Ontario Airport Network was created to meet these challenges.

The Collingwood Regional Airport is not a member of the group.

Members include John C. Munro International Airport in Hamilton, Kingston/Norman/Rogers Airport, Lake Simcoe Regional Airport, Niagara District Airport, London International Airport, Oshawa Executive Airport, Peterborough Airport, Region of Waterloo International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, Windsor International Airport, and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

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